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May 14, 2011 • Gear Bits, Rants and Raves

Chromebooks Market Niche Still Mystifies

Angry Birds on Cr-48

I’m not sure I understand the Chromebook pricing model. Acer is introducing an 11.6″ Chromebook [Ars Technica] in June, with wifi-only for $350. Samsung’s 12″ model will come with 3G wireless in addition to wifi, and cost $500. I could buy a Gateway dual-core Windows 7 11.6″ netbook today for $330 [Amazon]. The Gateway has 160 GB of hard drive space; the Chromebooks are limited to a much smaller amount of SSD space (16 GB).

So, where’s the market for a notebook computer which costs as much as (or more than) a notebook with a known OS? Don’t get me wrong, I love my Cr-48, which I call Stealthbook. It works pretty well, and it cost me nothing, which is a nice bonus. It really has gotten better since I got it in December, which fits the hype from Google. I have noticed that the single-core CPU in the Cr-48 is not enough to run even Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook, so the addition of the dual-core chips for the shipping models is a good move. I said when I got mine that the major stumbling block I foresaw in the entire ChromeOS model was cost. These machines cannot be used as a primary computer by many (most?) people, so if they’re going to be just an additional machine, they need to be cheap. Some may say that $500 is cheap, but it’s not when compared with a full-fledged laptop. I can get an Alienware gaming 11″ laptop for only one hundred dollars more than that, and I can use it to play Crysis! Sure, Angry Birds is a cool little game, but it’s no Crysis.

Carly has a Cr-48 as well, and thinks it’s wonderful. I think it’s neat, for what it is. What it is to me is a quick reference machine, a companion to let me check something on Wikipedia while I’m watching television. I recently ran into a malware site while wandering Google Images (something which my wife encounters frequently and which freaks her out every time). The site is a variation on the theme which has become very common in recent years – the fake antivirus scan. If I were on Windows, the site was ready to download a payload to my computer which many people would probably open. The site looked very much like Windows XP’s security center. Of course, I knew that I was safe and secure, with my Linux-based computer with the tamper-resistent operating system. So, there is that benefit to the Chromebooks, and it’s one that Google is selling to enterprise and education customers hard this week.

I don’t want to say that Chromebooks have no use. When I asked Kat what she’d want to replace her netbook when it inevitably dies, she said she wants another netbook. She likes the small size and¬†long battery life, and doesn’t need anything more powerful than Office to run. I catch her on my Cr-48 frequently, and she has no problems with it as a computer, for her uses. But, if I had $500 to spend on a new portable machine, I’m not sure how I would justify buying a Chromebook instead of a Windows laptop.

What do you think, is the Chromebook priced too high for adoption, or is it a good fit for the netbook niche?

6 Responses to " Chromebooks Market Niche Still Mystifies "

  1. Carly Z says:

    As you alluded to in your post, I have a very different take on Chrome OS. Personally, I love it, as it’s 90% of what I do on a computer in a stable, fast package. I agree with you that price is an issue, but hopefully those will come down slightly once the newness wears off.

    I can see the benefit of a linux-based, virus proof system for more than just schools and businesses though. For one thing, I’d be more likely to encourage a non-computer savvy family member to buy a chromebook over a comparable windows pc. Less maintenance and upkeep, by far…and unless they’re intent on doing more than just check email and browse the web, a mac is a lot of computer for that use case. A Chromebook, on the other hand, is just lift the lid and go…even my grandma could use it! :)

    • Gary Bunker says:

      Yes, that is true. Kat uses my Chrome machine without much trouble, but just for web-based things. Not everything is on the web, and the necessity for a permanent internet connection is another issue. Combining the limitations of the platform with the benefits of the tamperproof simplicity, I still come up with a value proposition which lends itself to a price below $300. But, I’ve given up on predicting the markets for things. I was sure nobody would pay $400 for a grayscale ereader in 2007, or $500 for a 16GB oversided iPod in 2010. :-)

      • Carly Z says:

        LOL! The one thing that you can be sure of in technology is that whatever you swear won’t happen will probably happen at some point.

  2. […] Chromebooks Market Niche Still Mystifies ( […]

  3. Christopher Gavula says:

    For that price I’d rather recommend people get an iPad with a BT keyboard. Its got the simplicity, the larger app pool, including MS office doc handling (via Pages, Number, or other compatible apps like Documents to Go). For me netbooks have always been a non -starter and I’ve never really understood their popularity beyond the price. For me, the cheap price didn’t make up for the performance deficits and compromises. For convenience- hitting email/web while in from of the TV, a tablet does much better *especially with the ability to pinch-zoom the small type on those web pages! If I really wanted to run Windows Apps I agree with Gary – buy a regular notebook, or if that doesn’t suit buy a Macbook or Macbook Air. But if the small size/convenience and tamper resistance are your goal I’d go with an iPad / BT keyboard or iPad / keyboard case combination – cleaner, simpler, and a very large app pool to choose from!

  4. Kathrine Mya says:

    Chromium is the opensource that came before chrome and comodo dragon is a chromium technology ,why comodo dragon is best among these chromium technology is ,its giving a great level of security